Mayor Harry Rediger did his best to assuage fears Wednesday night that the Cape Girardeau City Council has already made up its mind to allow deer hunting in the city limits.
Rediger told the group that vehemently opposes allowing hunters to shoot deer in town using bow and arrows that the council has yet to make a decision. Rediger attended the Cape Friends of Wildlife meeting to listen, but interjected when someone said that the "the writing is on the wall."
The mayor seemed to bristle at the suggestion that the council would rubber stamp the Deer Management Committee's recommendation that such an ordinance to allow urban deer hunting would thin the herd that is being blamed for an increase in motor vehicle accidents and ruined landscapes.
"I think it is a real possibility that we just might wait and get more information," Rediger told the group of about 20 that gathered at the Cape Girardeau Public Library. "To say our mind is made up is exactly wrong. I don't think the council has made up its mind."
Rediger, who told a reporter he isn't even leaning any particular way, insisted that the residents could rely on the council to gather more information in order to make a decision. One person at the meeting said that the mayor's comments were reassuring.
Also in attendance was Councilwoman Kathy Swan, making Wednesday's event a one-sided preview of Monday's council meeting, where the citizen committee that was appointed in late November is expected to tell the council that urban deer hunting is the most cost-effective and efficient method to reduce the number of deer in the city.
Only one member of the Deer Management Committee attended the Cape Friends of Wildlife gathering, Jim Whitnel, the lone no vote who will also address the council Monday to relay his concerns.
On March 6, the Deer Management committee voted 4-1 to recommend urban deer hunting. While the vote was lopsided, opposition leader Stephen Stigers urged his like-minded Cape Friends of Wildlife to show up in droves to the meeting to show that many disagree with the plan.
Stigers reiterated what the group has been saying for months -- that not enough information has been gathered to know if a problem even exists in Cape Girardeau or if urban deer hunting is the best solution if there is a problem.
"We need to insist on good surveys," Stigers said. "I'm afraid of a slapdash drive-by survey that will allow people to run with this."
Those on the committee have countered that the state's Department of Conservation has said there is a deer problem that will only get worse if something isn't done. They also have maintained that bow hunting is among the safest forms of hunting and that accidents are rare.
The members of Cape Friends of Wildlife aren't buying it. Dale Humphries, for example, would like the city to look into the possibility of adding more deer crossing signs to see if that might curtail the number of accidents. Humphries also said the issue is not about emotions.
"It's about right and wrong," she said. "It's about coexisting with nature. ... I think they should do something that's less radical."
Judy Pulley, a retired schoolteacher who attended Wednesday night's meeting, thinks the Deer Management Committee rushed to judgment without all the facts. In addition to the lack of a deer count, Pulley noted that the committee gathered no information on the number of landscape complaints.
"I don't want this turned into a killer arena," she said. "Just because the solution is cheap doesn't make it right."
Swan told the group that the council could react to the committee's recommendation a number of ways. Council members could ask that an ordinance be drafted that would put the issue to a vote, could table the issue or ask city staff to do more research.
"Our primary concern as the city council is the safety of the citizens," Swan said. "I need a lot more data before I make a decision."
711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO